‘Tis the season for developing marketing plans. Well, really that season was about four months ago, at the latest. That fact notwithstanding, I am still, in February, working with some of my procrastinating clients to put together their marketing plans for 2012. Because of this, I’ve been looking at a lot of SWOT analyses for the last few months and can’t seem to get them out of my head.
For those of you who never took a Marketing 101 class, or promptly forgot everything you learned once the final was a thing of the past, a SWOT analysis is a simple chart with two columns and two rows which explores four different areas of a business: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.
Put simply, the top row reflects statements about your company; the bottom row reflects statements about the outside world and the competition. The left column reflects the positives; the right column reflects the challenges.
By taking into account those things that you do best (strengths), you will better be able to capitalize on them. Knowing your weaknesses will allow you to either work on strengthening them or eliminating them.
Understanding what the impact of the outside world (competitors, economic situation, status of your neighborhood/city/region/state/country/world) is on your business will also help you put together a strategic marketing plan that makes sense given the impact these influences have on a business.
Keep in mind that some statements might show up in more than one column – usually kitty-corner to each other. For instance, your best strength might also be listed as a threat if your competition is working on something similar in an effort to be more competitive with you. By the same token, if you work on them, your weaknesses just might be the opportunities you’ve been looking for to overtake your competition.
Once you’ve identified items in all four categories, you will be prepared to develop a marketing plan that maximizes the positives (strengths and opportunities) while minimizing the impact of the negatives (weaknesses and threats). You will also be able to work on improving some of the items you’ve recognized as weaknesses that should at least be neutralized, if not turned into strengths for next year.
All-in-all, you can develop a marketing plan, but it may not be as successful as it should be without a good basis of understanding of your SWOT’s.